Two Otterhound breeders have enjoyed a great working relationship as they have pursued the club’s shared goal of preserving, promoting and protecting this breed.Eibhlin Glennon of Riverrun in Illinois and Bev Krejsa in Iowa of Sonsies have collaborated for many years consulting one another as they made breeding plans.
Bev came to Otterhounds through the Airedale breed stating that once she got her Airedale, she found she had a head-strong terrier that quickly bonded to her husband!She still wanted a special dog of her own and heard Airedales got their sweet nature from Otterhounds. She found ads in Dog World Magazine and started the hunt by talking with Karen Otto and Louise DeShon, then Bev Biren, who was planning a litter out of Louise's Sasquatch. She travelled to meet a hound of Louise's breeding and that sealed the deal. In 1983, Bev K. got her first Otterhound from Bev Biren, telling her that she wanted to show and potentially breed, but she also wanted to do obedience and learn to track--so if possible, could Bev send her the female with the best temperament for doing that? Bev B. sent her just that; Airdrie flew from Alberta, Canada, to Houston, Texas and they bonded when Airdrie stepped out of her crate.
Airdrie, Bev Krejsa's foundation bitch Ch. Avitar's Briar Rose CD TD 1983-1996
Eibhlin’s experience was similar to many Otterhound owners.She owned another breed-- Irish setters and went to a dog show to watch them.Disappointed in what she saw, she saw some Otterhounds resting near the show ring with a couple of young children lying on top of them!Recognizing them as Otterhounds, she introduced herself to the owner and watched the judging of the breed, that day seeing Duff (Ch. Chaucer’s Sir Duff of Bearsden) take breed and told her friends how much she liked Otterhounds.It wasn’t long before she got a call from a friend asking her to take a look at a young Otterhound pup needing a rehome and though she didn’t take him home right away, Sam (Jacob Best of New Berlin CGC) came to live with her for the next 13.5 years.Then hooked, Eibhlin took a trip to England and came home with an Otterhound from breeder Mike Ansell.Harvey (Ch. Ottersdream Pinocchio CGC) and Eibhlin shared an adventure coming home to the US with a delayed flight out of London.
Harvey, Eibhlin Glennon's foundation stud dog Ch. Ottersdream Pinochio CGC 1989-1997
Bev and Eibhlin met at a dog show when Bev was president of the Otterhound Club of America in 1989.In 1993 they agreed to breed a daughter of Airdrie, Camper (Ch. Sonsies Such a Happy Camper TD CGC) to Harvey.From that breeding, Eibhlin got her first bitch, Shona (Ch. Riverrun Sonsies Tempest TD CGC) and from there comes the continuing saga of the Sonsies/Riverrun Collaboration.
Multi-generational photo Bev with Camper (Ch. Sonsies Such a Happy Camper TD CGC) Kitty Sweeney with Zoey (Sonsies Trail Blazer CD TD) Eibhlin with Shona (Ch. Riverrun Sonsies Tempest TD CGC) Dallas Fisher with Sally (Ch. Sonsies Riverrun Amuck Sally TD VO) Laura Kiedaish with Chia (Riverrun Absolute Optimist TD) Judith Ashworth with Gus (Riverrun A'gus CGC TDI) Professional Handler with Nelli (Avitar's Nonchalant Nelli CGC)
Note: Camper is the dam of Shona and Zoey, granddam of Gus, Chia and Sally. Nelli is daughter of Gus.
Eibhlin's foundation bitch, Shona
Otterhound University Questions for Breeders
How do you determine if a dog should be bred?
Eibhlin: Health and conformation as well as pedigree. Is this the only dog/bitch that will be bred from a litter? That’s a plus. If 4 or 5 from the same litter have been bred, then the dog/bitch should have something special and be bred to a different pedigree from its littermates. If the temperament is good, I could forgive other things. Also I wouldn’t want to see the loss of the results of any one breeding even if there were conformation faults but good health. I also have a picture in my mind of the ideal Otterhound based on the packs I saw in England and the Follyhoun and Bearsden dogs that were so important in shaping the breed in the USA.
Bev: There is an ideal Otterhound--see the next question-- but you have to consider, what do you really have available to you to breed? Example: You may think your female should not be bred because she has mildly dysplastic hips, but she is very healthy otherwise and sound and typey and of great character. If she were a Golden Retriever, you might spay her. If she is an Otterhound, breed her if possible! Breed to good hips from a line of good hips. When would I absolutely NOT breed a hound? Temperament concerns, the presence of potentially life-threatening or quality of life-influencing inherited traits (I hope we eventually have a test for epilepsy like we have for Glanzmann’s.) In my lifetime, I have been around large dogs that have snapped at me and also have needed to coax very timid dogs into doing things...the result is that temperament is a very important factor to me. We tended to wait till hounds were a bit older to breed, like 4 years, which allowed for the possibility of earlier-onset health problems to appear, but again, exceptions may sometimes need to be made with Otterhounds when you have so few of them to breed from.
How do you select a bitch or dog to be used?
Eibhlin: I try to find one that complements the one I’m breeding by solidifying an important trait or adding something my hound needs. Temperament and health and type are very important when choosing a bitch to breed or a stud dog to breed to. I want a strong hound with drive and bone that can cover ground and has the persistence to keep going on a trail or hunt.
Bev talked to Captain John Bell-Irving in 1984 and carried a photo of a young adult Hoot with her to show him. Bell-Irving said, "he's growing into a fine hunting hound."
"Hoot" Am. Can. Ch. Avitar Follyhoun Kahootz
Bev kept the image of this hound in her mind when considering what an Otterhound should look like.
Bev:Before my first litter, I had talked to Louise DeShon, who felt Otterhounds should be large sturdy working hunting hounds, to Bev Biren who talked to me about movement and structure and coat and pointed out to me what would likely be lost if O’hounds were bred for the show ring, and to Karen Otto who got to hunt with the Dumfriesshire pack. In addition, in 1984 I got to meet and talk with Captain John Bell-Irving, a Master of the Dumfriesshire Otterhounds, and meet the remaining pack hounds in their kennel. (Notes and photos from that trip could be another article!) I carried a photo of Hoot, my foundation bitch’s big black and tan brother, then about a year old, to show him. He said of Hoot “he’s growing into a fine hunting hound.” A photo of mature Hoot is pasted above--this is one image I have carried in my head to help select a hound to breed to. (I have other favorite hounds, but not good photos.) On top of this, I had done some tracking with my hound and was blown away with how terrific her ability to follow a scent was, so I went into my first litter thinking we needed to aim for preserving the hunting Otterhound. My first breeding that worked (and only litter before working with Eibhlin) was to a son of a Dumfriesshire pack hound (Snuggers Tommy Tucker, son of Dumfriesshire Taurus).
I will return to this theme of preserving the hunting Otterhound over and over in answers to your questions and may frame it as choosing a sire as that is what I have primarily done. If possible, I would select a hound that looks and moves like a good sturdy harsh-coated, effortless yet powerful long-striding working hunting hound. Temperament and health concerns would eliminate some individuals and having good temperament and health could bring in some options that may not be the perfect specimen. Often what we consider a healthy hound is determined both by its own health and by health and longevity of the individual’s offspring, siblings and ancestors. Did the hound’s elder relatives live to 12, 13, and 14? That tells me something. Again, depending on what we know about inheritance, the sire in mind may have a flaw, like mildly dysplastic hips, but if his family and the dam have good hips—that is okay. Maybe a male has not been shown or is not a champion, but he looks like a good Otterhound, has a nice temperament, you know his background, and his pedigree is the clearest as far as epilepsy, that is a prospect that may add some diversity or options to the gene pool in addition to breeding to the dogs that make it to the show ring. By my experience and reading, temperament can be improved upon by breeding as much as physical structure can be (an example is an increase in the percentage of successfully trained and functioning guide dogs by breeding together successful guide dogs). So, yes, breed for a hound with correct “hunting hound” breed type, breed for health (longevity), breed for temperament.This goes for choosing who to breed to and for choosing what will go forward. If selecting a pup for breeding and working ourselves, we have also been known to test for those interested in tracking/trailing. That has been the drill I believe. Temper all of this with you cannot predict the future and you don’t know what nature will send you, and you only have what nature has sent all of us to work with. You do what you can.
A number of the males we bred to were essentially only used once! (Tucker, Harvey, Webster, Barry, Oscar, Phipps at this point).Perhaps they could have been used more or frozen. There are a couple males from our breeding that are frozen.I think freezing semen from good males to increase future options is such a good idea. I hope we can record as much information as possible about them! Photos from side, front, back, videos, breeder and owner notes on health, temperament, movement and perhaps comments on the siblings and parents.
What breeding system do you use?
Eibhlin: It all depends on the bitch I am breeding.In Otterhounds, most are related in the USA, so I decide on the particular mating.If I need something that is distant, then I will go there.If I want to solidify qualities I have, I may go back in my line.But it all depends on the bitch I am breeding. I think I focus more on individuals, but I also go to lines with health and type and bone. And it took years to get a line to go back into.As a new breeder, I had to go out.
Bev: Cindy Chrisos once said to me all Otterhounds are closely related enough that all breedings could be considered inbreedings, just of lower “intensity” to use the term here. I tried to do less close inbreeding when I started. As I learned more about the hounds and the traits of their relatives(pedigrees) and saw how our breedings were turning out, I/we could choose who to breed to with more knowledge, and we did sometimes breed more closely to double up on desirable traits. Eibhlin and I shared the knowledge and our instincts.
(I admire and applaud those who might want to go through the steps to study and try an outcross to some healthy other breed if they feel there is a trait(s) that they would like to bring in to try to improve Otterhounds.)
Eibhlin with Baby Gracie
Bev's daughter, Dianna with "Tweed" and "Shona" out of Camper.
Moseley, Ch. Sonsie's Laird Moseley CDX, UKC CDX, TDX, RA, CGC Hall of Fame
How much emphasis do you place on the pedigree when planning a breeding?
Eibhlin: Looking at pedigrees is very important, especially when considering health, longevity and temperament, which I consider very important, as well as conformation. But pedigrees are most helpful when a breeder knows the dogs in the pedigree and has seen/met them for a number of generations. Someone new to the breed looking to breed her first Otterhound needs to rely on others who have seen the dog as well as photo pedigrees because a string of dogs, even if they all have a CH in front of their names may not tell that much to someone who hasn’t seen them. To reiterate, pedigrees are only important if you have seen the dogs, know what they look like and how long they lived.
Bev: I use pedigrees to look at the things that are important to me—depth of health/longevity and good temperament as far as I know the hounds or can research them. Knowing the hounds in the pedigree can inform you on what you could be doubling up on, be that good or bad. It takes out some of the surprises...but certainly not all. Photo pedigrees help with seeing structure and type but, of course, not movement. I think knowing the hounds and their relatives is what is important, which means meeting hounds and their relatives and talking to their people. I feel the names are not very helpful if you don't know something about the hounds.
Sally, Ch. Sonsies Riverrun Amuck Sally TD VO
Sally and Friends wading in the creek
What is the most difficult thing to breed out or try to improve when breeding?
Bev: I have been told and found to be true a good front end (shoulder angulation, enough forechest, legs that are straight and not east-west, avoiding short upper arms) are hard to obtain and easy to lose. Bone too has been something we needed more of early on, but I think is usually better now. For the breed as a whole, Idiopathic epilepsy is difficult to breed out. It ranks very high on the list of traits to consider when planning a breeding.
Eibhlin: For years we had narrow and straight fronts. I think faults in the structure of the body are most difficult. We need more forechests and more moderate angulation front and rear and that has been a problem for awhile now. So I think that is most difficult to correct straight angulation and lack of forechests. We have improved bites tremendously as well as hips in the years I’ve been in the breed. Looking at Guide dogs proves we can improve temperaments. Right now we are trying to avoid epilepsy as much as we can.
How do you evaluate puppies?
Eibhlin: I ask people I respect to come and see them. We stack them and watch them move. I always ask Bev(she has a good eye!) to come as well as people who know Otterhounds but may have other breeds. I have a friend who is an AKC judge who is generous and always comes to look. That is the physical evaluation. However, I add the personality because I do not necessarily pick solely on looks. I want a working Otterhound, so I want drive and confidence. I also want a happy, sociable hound because I do so much therapy work with my Otterhounds. I pick by temperament as well as looks. And I place my puppies taking into account both of those and what my puppy buyers want. If someone really wants to show and perhaps breed in the future, I weigh conformation more. If someone has children, I look for a sweet, easy-going temperament. Placing puppies correctly is so difficult and I do anguish over it. The ones I keep always seem to pick me; so much for a scientific approach. I think we both anguish over which puppy will fit each home best.
Bev: I/we have often had the good fortune to pretty much know who is interested in being a home for our pups by the time a litter is born. In Otterhounds, pups in a litter may travel to homes all over the U.S. or further and it is often up to the breeder to figure out or recommend which pup is best suited to go where. Breeders gather as much information on what a prospective owner wants to do with their hound as possible and have that in mind as they watch their pups from day one. Which one seems like it will allow itself to be dressed by little girls, or will jog, or explore or play, or be happy to sit on the couch. By now I know if a pup is intended to be shown in conformation, it needs to have good type, structure and movement, but life is a lot easier if the pup also has enough confidence to deal with show situations; this is also true for dogs that will be shown in obedience.
Local Otterhound friends (which definitely includes those that come from a state away) have come to see and help evaluate structure and temperament and help decide which pup should go where. I take photos of pups stacked to study to help decide on structure, but I put the most weight on watching them from the time they are born. Eventually, I try them in different situations to see how they respond. In at least two litters when Eibhlin or I were choosing a pup to keep ourselves, we laid short tracks or trailed each other while we still had the young pups to see which ones more naturally would resort to using their noses and how enthusiastic they were. It seems to have worked—they grew up to be hounds that like to track and trail (and there ARE Otterhounds that are not that good/interested in following their noses!) If I am the one picking a hound to go forward for breeding stock, ideally, I will come as close as I can to picking a pup that has a nice houndy head, harsh working coat, good topline and tail-set, well made rear and front, but an outgoing, friendly temperament/personality has to be there too. A story—A couple mentors chuckled when in my first litter I chose the pup to keep for myself that was most interested in following a track over one that was more balanced and had a better front end. The one I kept was my Camper; she had working hound type with a harsh coat. She was indeed a terrific tracker with descendants that are also good with their noses. (Despite her less than stellar front end, Camper in very limited showing earned a group 2 as a 2-year-old and another at age 10 with inexperienced handlers, I think because of her working hound type and movement…so I guess that pick was okay too.)
Upon reflection, for one reason or another, Eibhlin and I both have often not kept the very best pup from a litter conformationally speaking—they were often placed with friends that were interested show homes and we kept one for ourselves that also wanted to track/trail or was happy and had drive… or had picked us. Do tell a breeder what you want to do, and they will do their best to get it to you.
What are the 3 biggest mistakes you can make as a new breeder?
Breeding too soon without seeing lots of Otterhounds and talking to lots of different breeders.
Using the most popular sire, especially the big show winner that many have used.
Not knowing the hunting function of the breed and not considering that these are primarily pack hunting hounds.This dog can and will use his nose.
Not taking your time to read/understand the history and purpose of the Otterhound and the packs. Below are some suggestions where one can see what the hounds needed to do--jump barriers, swim and pull themselves out of water onto steep banks, etc.
Attend/watch the judges' education presentation offered at specialties. Included are clips from a Dumfriesshire otter hunt (filmed by Karen Otto).
There are some very good photos of pack hounds within “Otterhound University” (History section of Otterhound Owner's Guide)
Not talking to as many Otterhound people as you can, for sure as many current and former Otterhound breeders as possible about their priorities, goals, successes, pitfalls, health concerns, etc., but also there are non-breeder owners and supporters to talk with that have lived with, watched, trained, tracked, trailed, studied, and/or written about Otterhounds for years that can tell you about individuals, the breed, history, health concerns, etc. Health surveys are available. There are Otterhound sites online—breeder websites, AKC information, club websites for the UK and US, Otterhound Health Forum and Otterhound Lovers sites on facebook to visit, and one can ask questions on the facebook sites as well.
Not seeing and meeting and watching and getting to know as many Otterhounds as you can, in person preferably, at their homes or at National Specialties or Supported Entries (see comments under the question “Why is it important to attend the National Specialty”). One can also study the photos and photo pedigrees in the Otterhound database—some go back to the 1800’s! Wonderful resource!
What were the best qualities of your foundation bitch and her line?
Eibhlin: Shona was my foundation bitch. Her best qualities were temperament, nose, longevity, coat and movement. Her line produced many Otterhounds that lived to 14 or nearly there.
Bev:Airdrie was my foundation bitch. I asked Bev Biren to send me the puppy with the neatest personality, and she did. Best qualities? Airdrie was a very good mover with a houndy head, a nice rear, nice compact feet, a pretty good coat, and the personality such that she turned me into an Otterhound lover that has endured for over 35 years. Hmm, her lines?...momma Gina was a pretty headed—and tailed!--harsh-coated hound whose grandma on both sides was from the Kendal and District pack; papa Sasquatch was the first O’hound with OFA passing hips; his father was out of two Dumfriesshire pack hounds. Airdrie herself was a good at following a track; she earned her TD…I guess you could say she was well-rounded as I believe she was the first O’hound that titled in three areas, though just at the beginning level—breed champion, companion dog, and tracking dog…also, mom.
Which were your favorite dogs you have bred or that made a big impact on your breeding program?
Eibhlin: Hoot (CH Avitar Follyhoun Kahootz) and his offspring shaped my picture of the Otterhound many years ago. They had bone and long easy strides. I began by breeding into that line and my dogs still have a lot of that.
Dogs I’ve bred: Important to my breeding program
Sally with her best friend Dallas Fisher
Gracie, Ch. Riverrun Sonsies Comedy TDX CGC VO ROM
Sally (Ch Sonsies Riverrun Amuck Sally TD)
Sally’s daughter Gracie (Ch Riverrun Sonsies Comedy TDX) She had the drive and nose that are so important to me and she produced such nice pups when bred.
Finnegan, CT Ch Riverrun Finnegan VO CGC NAP NAJP VOX
Viola, Ch. Riverrun Meant to Be TD THD CGC VO
Gracie’s son Finnegan (CH CT Riverrun Finnegan NAP NAJP). Finnegan is an active, certified Search and Rescue dog, a champion tracker, a therapy dog. He has bone, a great coat and he will do anything I ask and do it better than I think he can.
Viola (Ch Riverrun Meant To Be TD THD) for her wonderful temperament that she has passed on to her offspring (as well as nice looks)
Camper, Ch. Sonsies Such a Happy Camper TD CGC
Sally, Ch. Sonsies Riverrun Amuck Sally TD VO
Camper—hunting hound in type and scenting drive and ability, best behaved hound I have had, sweet.
Eibhlin went forward with Camper’s daughter Shona, another sound and sweet houndy hound, Eibhlin found a very good male to breed to with a good front end Webster (Ch. Kalevala's Lionheart) and gave me
Sally—a well-made big strong smart girl that also was a good tracker, with passing hips and lived to 14+ years, she had two litters and I believe perhaps the best all-around individual from both litters went forward—indeed the ones from each litter that went forward lived the longest.
Mo lived to14+ and Gracie was almost 13. I considered both Mo and Gracie to be hunting hound type and had great drive for using their noses, good hips and the best temperaments.
Gracie was Finnegan's and Viola's and Lula's mom, who have produced nice pups. Also Blaze and Molly and Pumpkin from Gracie have been bred by their owners with nice pups and grandpups resulting. Moseley and Finnegan have sired two litters each with some nice hounds in them, and Phipps, a Moseley and Lula son bred by Jinny Addington and Eibhlin, has some nice young kids out there. Mo and Finnegan are frozen. Phipps and some of his siblings are younger and available I believe. I hope the offspring of these hounds are healthy and continue to go forward and contribute to the breed in a positive way.
Who were people that were influential in your breeding background? Why?
Eibhlin: Beverly Krejsa has been the most influential. From the first time she bred Camper to my Harvey we discussed our ideal Otterhound, how to select a mate, what we wanted in a hound, etc. To this day we discuss every possible breeding and review the puppies to decide if it was successful. I wish I had as good an eye for a dog/puppy as Bev has. I trust her opinions.
Louise DeShon and Jean Pretious and Arlyne Smith have also been very influential. I learned so much from them by looking at their dogs and talking to them. Others were Nancy and Richard Wallens and Mike Ansell. Even if they couldn’t come and view the pups, their dogs were always in my mind. Going on a hunt was also a key influence. Once I saw Otterhounds actually doing the work they were bred to do, the breed standard all made perfect sense. It was the best experience a breeder could have.
Bev:I talked about my initial influencers, Louise DeShon, Bev Biren, Karen Otto, and Captain Bell-Irving, under “How do you select a bitch or dog to be used”. Others would be Tommie McMillen who had had Otterhounds since the 70’s but was an experienced breeder of wire-haired Dachshunds for years before that; she helped me understand the logistics of having a litter and placing pups,Cindy Chrisos that was a wealth of knowledge on all the Otterhounds and their people when I got my first hound (she was the Otterhound database : )), the breeders from England that shared knowledge with me—Jean Pretious and Janet Wiginton that began with Dumfriesshire hounds and Beryl Broadbent that could tell us about the Kendal & District Hounds. I feel like I have gotten insight from a number of Otterhound breeders which includes the owners of the males we went to, folks that have taken home pups from us, and many O’hound owners.Since 1993, Eibhlin and I have shared the brain on most decisions about which way to go. I feel like Eibhlin has been the calm, reasoned influence on breeding and raising pups; she carries the torch now and is passing it on!
Why do you think it is important to attend the National Specialty?
Eibhlin:It’s crucial to see as many Otterhounds as possible. In our breed, you need to go to specialties in every section of the county because people in the far west don’t always get east and vice versa. The other benefit is meeting people and talking to breeders about dogs they have bred who may not be shown in conformation regularly. Relatives of show dogs are often over-looked. Get to know other people and go over their hounds. It’s a good chance to hang out and find out about relatives not being shown. Listen to people’s comments about the various dogs.
Bev:Attending the specialty lets you see Otterhounds and meet their people. There are not many Otterhounds—you can learn families of hounds, their looks and personalities by attending the specialties. It makes it easier to plan a breeding when you have met their owners and can then converse. Back to talking to breeders, Otterhound breeders and owners on the whole want to help each other and are in my experience very honest. There are so few hounds, few breeders, it may be truer for Otterhounds than other breeds that the “club” made up of owners and breeders are the breeding program where we all have knowledge and efforts to offer.
How many generations do you track in a pedigree and why?
Eibhlin:Five to seven. As I get older, I can go back farther because I remember dogs farther back. I like to look back and see how old the hounds were when they died. If there is a serious health problem, you may need to look at only one generation.
Bev:In later years, I go back as far as I know the hounds and their health and looks and personalities/temperaments—they are mainly only names before that.You can see how closely they were bred and see where maybe an outcross was made, to another breed. Sometimes you have a photo. We know the hounds in a pedigree by our later breedings, their build and movement, their health, their personalities, what dogs and possibly traits have been doubled up on and often about siblings of hounds as well. Thinking about it now, I guess we go beyond a typical pedigree when we include knowledge of siblings of hounds when thinking about a breeding. I think a new breeder would be best served to talk to as many varied Otterhound breeders as they can and meet as many hounds and their owners as possible to help build that knowledge.
Do you have a personal set of rules you use for breeding?
Eibhlin: I have an ideal Otterhound in my mind that I try to create in every breeding. I want a true hunting hound because I work my dogs in Search and Rescue (SAR) and want the drive, scenting abilities, structure and coat that make them working pack hounds. Of course no one has bred the perfect Otterhound, but without a mental image of what you are breeding for, why breed? I try to avoid sires others have used. Our gene pool is too narrow to use the same sires and breed lots of dogs from the same litter. Then Bev passed on a tip I always use and have shared with newer breeders. “Make a list of the top 10 qualities you consider most important in an Otterhound and don’t compromise on the top 3-4 in any breeding. Early on we did that and both came up with the same top two: temperament and health.
Finnegan, Star Puppy
Viola, Therapy Dog
Bev: Personal set of rules: Generally try to find parents that look like what you think a sturdy working Otterhound should look like and move like. Select parents and a pup to keep (future breeding stock) with a temperament/personality that you would feel good about having go forward in the breed. Look for hounds from lines (siblings and generations) stacked for good health; many ancestors that have lived a long time are a good indicator. Epilepsy I try to avoid as much as possible. I mentioned earlier that Eibhlin and I have tracked or trailed puppies to help us pick one to keep for ourselves, so we are selecting for following a scent as well.Also, I didn’t have a litter unless I was either keeping a pup with the hope of taking it forward or had a home waiting for a pup that wanted to take the breed forward.I’m pretty sure Eibhlin feels the same way.
Describe the balance and structure you look for when breeding an Otterhound.
Eibhlin: When I started I had good coats and structure but lacked bone. I tried to breed to get the bone I wanted. I also value a good forechest and balanced, moderate angulation. Those enable our dogs to do the work they were bred to do we need to work on them today.
Bev:Sturdy having ribspring and bone—I have had hounds that were too fine-boned, try to go for solid hounds; a harsh “working” outer coat that is not too long, that won’t tangle in brambles or be heavy if wet, easy, long-striding movement, straight legs viewed from rear and front, nice tail-set, thick tail, handsome sturdy houndy head, low set ears but they do not have to be as low or as long as Bloodhound type ears. Balanced moderate angulation, good shoulders and fore-chest. Good level topline if possible. I like tighter feet too. O’hounds used to have short upper arms, try to avoid that. It is hard to find the perfect hound in breeding and also in what you have to choose from in a litter. Overall, ideally, the look should be of a “fine hunting hound”. But looks are definitely not all it’s about when I bred and chose hounds to go forward.
What is your most important advice for a new breeder?
Eibhlin: All I can say is see a lot of different dogs and talk to a lot of different breeders, not just the one you bought your dog from. My first show dog was a wonderful import from England, so I didn’t have a breeder-mentor at my shoulder here in the USA. I missed that, but it also made me talk to a lot of breeders of different types and values.
The other major piece of advice I have is Don’t forget Otterhounds’ original function. They are hunting hounds with wonderful noses. Breed Otterhounds who possess the qualities the pack masters spent centuries developing.
Finnegan and Eibhlin, A Search and Rescue Team
Bev: Most important? Not sure I can narrow that down. First see the “What are the 3 biggest mistakes you can make as a new breeder?” above.
On the practical side, when you are planning a breeding, I would try to have an experienced breeder of Otterhounds or other large breed and a good vet that is experienced with breeding and whelping available for questions and advice. Read good books on breeding dogs. Help with a whelping if you can. It would be good if you could have experienced help for your whelping. When it is close to due date, have the vet’s and your mentor’s home number handy and give them a heads up.
I guess a thought that hasn’t been covered is don’t give up too easily on breeding—persist like the hounds. I know life can get in the way of being a breeder—it may be time, money, health of you or your hounds, etc. But, it might help to know that breeders before you had breedings that didn’t work, had treasured hounds that it turns out weren’t meant to go forward, lost dear sweet little pups or had health concerns in pups to deal with, had homes that ended up not being able to take or keep a hound…I guess it is par for the course. Give it a good shot; our breed depends on it!
Our numbers are so few that being an Otterhound breeder means contributing to and actually impacting the future of the breed. Breeding can be very rewarding. When all is said and done, one of the most rewarding things that comes with breeding and placing pups is you also get to add people to the “Otterhound family.” These family members are also the future of the breed.
I was trying to think of how to describe the coat—harsh is my word—so I went back to look at the breed standard. I have looked at parts but haven’t looked at it overall in years. I was pleasantly surprised to find what I keep trying to describe as what I sought in an Otterhound is summarized in the first two lines:
“The Otterhound is a large, rough-coated hound with an imposing head showing great strength and dignity,and the strong body and long striding action fit for a long day's work. It has an extremely sensitive nose, and is inquisitive and perseverant in investigating scents.”
Tack on having a personality that can comfortably deal with things like dog shows, be around the conditions needed for search and rescue work or be able to lie down and have children read to them and that is it! Otterhounds are so neat.
What do you hope to contribute? That may be a good question for a new breeder. For example, I don’t know for a fact, but I think one thing Louise DeShon wanted to contribute was to improve Otterhound hips as far as hip dysplasia. I think she along with other breeders making the effort have been pretty successful. I suspect by what Eibhlin and I wrote we want to preserve the working Otterhound by ability as well as structure and coat, and hopefully bring along health, longevity and an “amiable, even-tempered” adaptable and at times boisterous personality.
One measure of where our line is going is all of the girls and boys that we have bred and kept to go forward with have earned Tracking titles-- TD’s (Bev’s) and TDX’s and a Champion Tracker (Eibhlin). We also bred back to Mo who earned a TDX and brought in Barry who became a Champion Tracker. As of now, Eibhlin has bred three and trained two Search and Rescue Otterhounds!